Written by: James Pokalof, James Keach, and David Pritchard
Directed by: James Pokalof
Starring: Peter Hooten, Kathrine Baumann, and Robert Englund
Reviewed by: Brett G.
In the 1970s, horror films had the tendency towards depicting the destruction of youth and innocence. Perhaps the most famous example of this is Cravenís Last House on the Left, a film which essentially presented the destruction of the naivety of the ďFlower PowerĒ era. Other films in the era such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre concerned themselves with similar themes and exhibited a marked turn towards a gritty, grim, and nihilistic horror aesthetic unlike most films preceding them. In this same tradition comes a relatively obscure film called Slashed Dreams, a film thatís probably only notable because it stars Robert Englund in an early role. It was the lure of Englund that drew me to the film, and I hoped that I had stumbled upon a bit of buried treasure along the way.
The plot of the film is very simple. Robert, Jenny, and Marshall are students at a university. In the course of their discussions, we learn that one of their former classmates, Michael, grew tired of academic life and moved off to the woods to find himself. Jenny and Marshall are currently an item, but that doesnít last long once Marshall grows jealous of her platonic relationship with Robert. This leads to a blow-up that ends with Robert and Jenny heading off to find Michael and his life of solitude. Once they reach Michaelís shed in the woods, the students are confronted by a couple of hicks that end up terrorizing them that night, and Jenny ends up raped.
And thatís pretty much the entire film. Thereís a bit more that happens the next day, but I suppose I have to leave something to your imagination, and whatever you can conjure up is likely to be far more imaginative than what actually happens. In short, nothing really happens in Slashed Dreams, as the majority of the filmís running time is devoted to Robert and Jenny frolicking in the woods while some generic soft rock soundtrack plays in the background. Business picks up a bit once the two antagonists enter the scene, but even their scenes leave a lot to be desired, and the filmís conclusion will no doubt leave you wanting more. Along the way, Jenny and Robert encounter a weird shop owner and a bear, but for the most part, itís just these two... which is too bad because they really arenít that interesting as characters.
At first, the film drew me in a bit because Michaelís story (the bored academic heading off into the wilderness) is an obvious reference to Victorian-era poet Matthew Arnoldís ďThe Scholar Gipsy,Ē so the English major in me was intrigued. I suppose that such an allusion allowed me to believe that the film actually had a lot to say about the inability for one to escape the horrors of modern world (one of Arnoldís favorite themes), but I have a feeling Iím giving the film too much credit because the allusion really doesnít go anywhere. Unlike its more famous contemporaries, it actually seems like Slashed Dreams is arguing that innocence and humanity will prevail above all, which is something you donít see in a horror film very often.
However, calling Slashed Dreams a horror film is actually a bit of a stretch. Sure, itís got the hallmarks of the genre, as you have an innocent couple being stalked and assaulted by strangers, but itís not the least bit terrifying. Furthermore, as I mentioned before, it takes a long time getting to any of these horrific elements. Plus, once the film gets to this point, thereís absolutely no gore, though the assault is inherently horrifying. Like its contemporaries, it presents the violence in a matter of fact fashion, with no style thrown in. I will at least say that the two hicks are somewhat amusing and bring some life to the proceedings (what does that say about the film?), but, for the most part, Slashed Dreams fails on almost every level as a horror film because itís mostly just Jenny and Robert messing around in the woods and skinny dipping. It seems as if Polakof forgot that he needed to show more of the horrifying antithesis to such innocence to be completely effective because the actual horror comes and goes with barely a whimper.
If youíre thinking about seeing this solely because it stars Englund, I have to warn you that he doesnít show up until the last ten minutes or so. Not surprisingly, he out-classes everyone else in the film, but heís not enough to salvage it. Also, this is the rare opportunity to see Englund playing a straight-laced good guy, so this film at least has that going for it. Ultimately, however, Englund is about all the film has to offer to the horror enthusiast, and thereís not even enough of him here to really warrant watching the first hour to get to his part. If anything, Slashed Dreams supplanted Night Terrors as the worst film Iíve ever seen featuring Robert Englund.
However, many readers out there might already own Slashed Dreams without being fully aware of it, as itís one of the fifty films in Mill Creekís Chilling Classics collection. If you own that, itís probably worth at least fast-forwarding to the end to catch Englund. If you feel like watching the whole thing, you know what youíre getting into with a public domain title like this: mediocre video quality that looks like it was sourced from a VHS tape and a slightly muffled audio track. All in all, the presentation is better than a lot of public domain titles Iíve seen. If you end up paying more than a few bucks for the film, youíve probably overpaid. However, unless you already own it as part of a larger collection of public domain titles, itís really not worth seeking out. Ultimately, itís a very poor manís Last House on the Left, complete with the discordant soft-rock soundtrack and everything. In some cases, lesser known films have something to offer along with the classics, but thatís not the case here. Trash it!
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